Tommy’s Pizzeria takes hold of Norman Road

From the corner of the seafront and London Road I could smell fire, you know – the kind of BBQ smoke that is filled with promise. Turns out I was not the only pizza lover impatient for the ribbon-cutting ceremony by Dr Savage which marked the much anticipated first firing of Neapolitan-style sourdough pizzas at Tommy’s permanent new home on Norman Road, St Leonards. What used to be the Love Café is now unrecognisable. Out with the quirky frills and in with clean lines. A stylish dining room with dark walls, wide floorboards, modern sharing tables and chairs in wood and steel all complement the tiled bar and open kitchen. Chopped logs and a well-stocked bar provide the perfect backdrop for some serious food theatre. 

Ribbon cutting at Tommy’s
PICTURE: Arno Maasdorp

Tom Philipson and Mark Edwards have clocked up over 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry, and it shone through despite the opening night frenzy. Folk came from far and wide to wish them well and waited patiently to taste the magic. I was lucky enough to try the white pizza topped with wild garlic pesto, fresh asparagus and seasoned with Gorgonzola. I was intrigued, and as we sat outside in the courtyard on a balmy evening, I was planning my next visit. I returned late in the afternoon on Wednesday.

The menu is short and concise; there was not a single thing I wouldn’t have ordered. The specials were the delicious veggie pizza I tried on the first night, as well as a local spider crab, chilli and cherry tomato winner. However, the roasted butternut, artichoke and confit garlic pizza also caught my eye. Luckily, Mark was at hand to resolve my dilemma by suggesting I go half and half! As I was in no rush and it was quiet, it didn’t take much arm-twisting for me to agree to a generous portion of sticky, spicy, free range chicken wings and a glass of chilled, crisp, dry sherry. You’ve read that correctly – sophistication doesn’t come much messier than this decadence: the sweetness of the secret marinade on the tender wings cut by the sherry. All of a sudden the courtyard as well as the dining room was filling up with familiar faces. A fellow single diner, my pal Sal, came over for a hug and to express her deep joy over the herb aioli they serve with the Hastings Fritto Misto – a selection of delicately fried, local seafood which on that day was cuttlefish, skate cheeks, gurnard and plaice. 

Tommy’s interior
PICTURE: Arno Maasdorp

By now the place was buzzing with a cross-section of convivial punters who filled the place with laughter. My pizza arrived blistered at the edges, topped with rich tomato sauce, Fior Di Latte mozzarella and tasty toppings. A couple of turns of black pepper and a splosh of homemade garlic oil finished it off perfectly. I washed it down with a glass of Verdeca from Sicily. The drinks list too is short and considered like the rest of TOMMY’S. 

Roasted squash, artichoke and confit garli pizza
PICTURE: Arno Maasdorp

As Sal says goodbye to Tom on her way to a movie quiz across the road, she picks his brains as to what we can expect from the kitchen in the months ahead. He assures her the toppings will keep changing with the seasons and the classics will make an appearance as they tweak and develop the menu. Live music, DJs and a movie night are also in the offing. And if this wasn’t enough to be getting on with, the guys are taking the show on the road: look out for them at Glasto should you be away from St Leonards and in need of the taste of TOMMY’S 

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